Posted Nov 27 2009 9:21AM
Like so many other NBA fans, Chris Bosh followed the events that surrounded LeBron James' only trip into Madison Square Garden this season. Maybe he even followed it more closely since their situations are quite similar.
Both are young, talented and soon to be free agents in the summer of 2010. Yet up until the point when James finally said he was shutting down talk of his future, Bosh marveled at the way his fellow Olympic teammate kept juggling the off-court conversation and his on-court performance without letting either crash to the floor.
"That's just the attention that LeBron's been getting for a while and that's expected," Bosh said. "It speaks a lot of him that somebody's able to handle all that and still play basketball at the same time. It's a part of our job. It's what makes us who we are and why we're here. I understand all of that.
"Some people are a different way. I guess he can do all that stuff, handle the questions, juggle all that. I don't like even thinking about it. I can't be thinking about it. If I'm playing a game, I want to be thinking about the game and that's it. It's the only way I can get the most out of myself."
The 25-year-old forward has been maximizing his talents for the Toronto Raptors in the opening month of the season, averaging a career-high 25.4 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. Bosh got off to a roaring start when he scored 21 and pulled in 16 points in the Raptors' stunning opening night over James' high-profile Cavaliers and their new center Shaquille O'Neal. Bosh, in fact, served notice on the opening tip when he leaned a shoulder into the massive Mt. Shaq and controlled the ball for his team.
"There was no reason to back down, no reason to think we weren't good enough or strong enough to compete with them," Bosh said. "I came into this season after making a commitment to get into the best possible shape of my career and try to take a step forward in terms of my career."
An off-season weight regimen in his hometown of Dallas added muscle and definition to his 6-foot-10, 230-pound frame and also gave him more confidence in all of the things he can do.
Following seven seasons with the Raptors, the question is where Bosh will be doing all of those things next season after he joins what is probably the most celebrated free agent class ever next summer.
"In the season, I don't want to get caught up in that," said Bosh. "Because if you start thinking about it, you can't give 100 percent mentally to the task at hand, which is playing basketball and trying to win games. If I start thinking about that all the time it will affect my play. I don't want that to happen. I want to keep playing at a high level the whole season and most of the time you have to have a clear head in order to do that."
Bosh's high performance is coming amidst a mediocre start for the Raptors, who are just 7-9 despite adding free agents Hedo Turkoglu and Jarrett Jack, trading for Marco Belinelli, Amir Johnson and Reggie Evans drafting rookie DeMar DeRozan with the No. 9 pick. While averaging 105.7 points per game on offense, Toronto ranks next-to-last in points allowed (108.6).
"It's a blur really, the first part of the season," Bosh said. "It's like everything has been mixed into one, getting acquainted and learning each other on the fly and just trying to get the chemistry right at the same time that we're trying to win basketball games. It's a constant challenge and we're still trying to figure out what we do best and figure out how to play together. It takes time.
"We were not gonna know each other right off the bat. I didn't expect to know everybody and their games right off the bat and I hope they didn't expect that out of me. It takes some getting used to. In the NBA we have plenty of games, but we've done a pretty good job so far."
The Raptors, of course, insist they will do everything possible to keep him in the fold in their future and Bosh is glad to hear it.
"Have I given it a thought at some point? Sure," he said. "I've tried to sit down and figure things out. But it's a waste of time, because you don't even know what you're going to be doing next week, let alone next month or next summer. That's a question that you can't even answer. You mind is always changing, your situation is always changing."
When he's asked about the Raptors, Bosh says he's thoroughly enjoyed living in Toronto and his time with the organization. When he's asked about the possibility of moving closer to home and perhaps playing for a team in Texas, at first he shakes his head. In Dallas, Bosh could be the heir apparent at the power forward spot to Dirk Nowitzki and in Houston he could fit in nicely alongside Yao Ming.
"No, that's too close to home," Bosh said. "It's not a total negative. I have a lot of family and friends in Texas. But you know that can be both a gift and a curse. Still, it's nice to be wanted."
And everything, he admits, could change.
"I feel right like that now, that playing close to home could be a negative," Bosh said. But I can't say that I'll feel the same way later, next month, next summer, next year. I may change my mind. I just got to live for right now and help this team be as good as they can be and be as good a player as I can be and enjoy the city of Toronto."
There is also the appeal of playing his entire career with one franchise.
"Not everybody can do it," Bosh said. "Not a lot of guys have done it. It happens less and less. The business has changed a lot. But I think that's pretty cool to stay with one organization for a while, try to help them get some place, since I came from rock bottom.
"My job right now is to get some place this year with this team. I'm feeling strong. I feel good. I feel like I can keep up this level of play for the whole season. If that happens, maybe it helps the decision, maybe it doesn't. What I know is if I spend all season caught up thinking about things, it doesn't help anybody."
Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here.
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